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Born A Crime Book Review

Trevor Noah is insightful, sincere, and hilarious in his debut novel Born A Crime. In his book, the current Daily Show host recounts his life growing up in South Africa during the tail end of apartheid. If you have had an American public school education, then you probably do not know much about the history of apartheid. What I knew beforehand could be condensed down into two things. One, there was something called an apartheid in South Africa. Two, it was like segregation in America, only worse. But that “description” cannot describe the lunacy of this system. For example, sometimes a biracial person (half black and half white) could be “upgraded” to a white person.

For an American audience, this book is an interesting dive into the racism of another country. Apartheid was modeled, in part, after America’s segregation. While there were other influences on Apartheid and the culture in South Africa is different, there are parallels that Noah draws between the mentalities of people in America and people in South Africa. Noah’s analysis is particularly in depth because he is biracial. At different stages in his life, he has been called “mixed,” “black,” and “white,” and each of those roles informed his ideas on race and racism.

If you are worried that this book will be too melancholy, worry not. Noah blends storytelling with spot-on humor. He never tries to make the reader pity him or dwell on the lows. He tells you his story, gives you his insights, and makes you laugh. I listened to the audio version of this book, which is the format I highly recommend if you can obtain it. It is narrated by Noah himself. His narration adds emotion, depth and even accents (when necessary). I listened to this book during a seven hour drive to LA, and I have to say, the time went by fast.

Noah does not paint a grand picture of his life. Some of his stories include prom, downloading music, wanting to look good, and going to church on Sundays. He is honest and not afraid of telling the audience about his low points in life. At the same time, his life is a tale of endurance.

Noah’s experience writing for stand up and television translates perfectly into novels. His stories flow well and he knows how to set up a idea. He introduces a motif or phrase at the beginning of a chapter and continually goes back to it for the rest of the book. One example of this is when he refers to the neighborhood he lives in as his place, and that you could not catch him in his place. This ideas comes back at different points in his life for very different circumstances.

I cannot recommend this book enough; I found it funny and enlightening.

To end this review, I’ll give you a preview of some of the interesting stories from Born A Crime: there is one about a cheese boy, a dancer named Hitler, and a dog that lived in two houses.

 

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Gauri Ganjoo

Mt Holyoke '19

I was the Co-Campus Coordinator of Her Campus Mt Holyoke for during my senior year of college. where I learnt so much and got to help others find their voice. I graduated in 2019 from Mount Holyoke College with a degree in Mathematics and a minor in Film Studies.
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